Mama Lisa's World
International Music & Culture
A place for poems, songs, rhymes and traditions from around the world for both kids and grown-ups to enjoy!

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Several days ago I wrote a post about the Santa Lucia holiday in Sweden and Scandinavia.

A popular saying associated with this holiday is:

Lucy Light,
The Shortest day &
The Longest Night.

This saying celebrates the association of St Lucia’s Day, December 13, with the Winter Solstice which, under the old Julian calendar, used to fall on that day.

This day is very significant in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. There, in December, the daylight time is very short and darkness and nighttime are extremely long, due to their position on the globe.

Lucia is another way of saying “Lucy”, which literally translates to “light”. (In English we can hear this connection in words like “Luminescent”.) After the Winter Solstice the days get longer. So St. Lucia is a celebration of the coming lengthening of the days.

You can see why the song Sankta Lucia is one of the most popular carols to sing. It has a beautiful, haunting melody and it’s all about the long night and the return of daylight. Here’s one version of Sankta Lucia in Swedish, followed by an English translation I did, the midi tune and a link to the sheet music.

Natten går tunga fjät
(Swedish)

Natten går tunga fjät
rund gård och stuva;
kring jord, som sol förlät,
skuggorna ruva.
Då i vårt mörka hus,
stiger med tända ljus,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Natten går stor och stum
nu hörs dess vingar
i alla tysta rum
sus som av vingar.
Se, på vår tröskel står
vitklädd med ljus i hår
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Mörkret ska flykta snart
ur jordens dalar
så hon ett underbart
ord till oss talar.
Dagen ska åter ny
stiga ur rosig sky
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Night Walks with a Heavy Step
(English)

Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Night walks grand, yet silent,
Now hear its gentle wings,
In every room so hushed,
Whispering like wings.
Look, at our threshold stands,
White-clad with light in her hair,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Darkness shall take flight soon,
From earth’s valleys.
So she speaks a
Wonderful Word to us:
A new day will rise again
From the rosy sky…
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Midi of Santa Lucia

Sheet Music of Santa Lucia

Here’s a YouTube video of a performance of the song, from a Santa Lucia celebration in Sweden. The video is cut off at the beginning and the end, but it sounds very pretty and it gives an idea of what a St. Lucia Day concert is like.

Many thanks to Edward M. Gawlinski for the midi tune and sheet music!

-Mama Lisa

Note: The tune to Sankta Lucia comes from an Italian version of the song called “Santa Lucia”. There are also at least 3 different Swedish versions of this song.

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This artilce was posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2007 at 1:29 pm and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Denmark, Finland, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, Languages, Music, Norway, Saint Lucia Songs, St. Lucia's Day, Sweden, Swedish, Swedish Children's Songs, YouTube. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 Responses to “A Santa Lucia Day Song and Saying, plus why it’s a Festival of Light”

  1. frog with a blog Says:

    Hi and thank you for your message on my blog. Yes you are right, I’m French but I speak Swedish, love Sweden and especially love Sankta Lucia. Natten gar tunga fjät (i don’t have all the Swedish letters on my French keyboard) is a tricky sentence. I would say just like you that it’s the night that comes with heavy steps although you should know that most Swedes don’t actually know what “fjät” means. But they sing it happily anyway. There are lots of alternative versions to the lyrics, the most famous being “Sankta Lucia, skänk mig en tia”. Can you translate this one?
    Happy to have discovered your blog.

  2. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for writing “frog with a blog”!

    FYI: “Frog with a blog” is referring to a post on his blog about Sankta Lucia. Since he speaks Swedish, I was asking him a question about the translation of the first line of the Sankta Lucia song.

    I’m not familiar with “Sankta Lucia, skänk mig en tia”. Could you send me the lyrics to it – or a link where I could find it? Of course, I wouldn’t complain about an English translation either.

    Glad to have discovered your blog too. I was rolling on the floor watching your Learn French in 5 minutes and 36 seconds video!

    -Mama Lisa

  3. Lars Celander Says:

    Hi!

    I am from Sweden. The lyrics beginning with “Sankta Lucia, skänk mig en tia” is simply an irreverent version, usually sung by kids tired of the very beautiful but also boring singing.

    The full lyrics fragment sung is as follows:

    Sankta Lucia, skänk mig en tia
    Inte en femma, det har jag hemma

    Roughly translated:

    Sankta Lucia, give me a tenner
    not a fiver, I got that at home

    (tenner = ten crown bill, fiver = five crown bill)

    The fun being that it sounds exactly like the proper version.

    Cheers,
    Lars

  4. Lisa Says:

    That’s funny! Thanks for the explanation.

    I curious about the version they’re singing on YouTube at:

    Saint Lucia in Sweden

    I believe this is the Swedish text of that version…

    Sankta Lucia, ljusklara hägring,
    sprid i vår vinternatt glans av din fägring.
    Drömmar med vingesus under oss sia,
    tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia,
    tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia.

    Kom i din vita skrud, huld med din maning.
    Skänk oss, du julens brud, julfröjders aning.
    Drömmar med vingesus, under oss sia,
    tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia.
    tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia.

    Does anyone know if this version is well-known? Would anyone like to provide an English translation?

    Thanks in advance for any help! I’m trying to provide one place where people can find the different versions of the Santa Lucia songs.

    -Mama Lisa

  5. All Downhill From Here » Happy Santa Lucia Day Says:

    [...] Last night Little Runner and I made special buns and this morning she woke Soccer Boy and Hubby up with a plate of buns and a travel mug of tea, while I carried the flashlight. Traditionally she’s also to wear a wreath of lit candles, but the flashlight worked nicely. We’re supposed to sing a song, too, but I don’t remember much of it, so we played a Youtube version of it that I found on Mama Lisa’s World Blog. [...]

  6. anika Says:

    That version of Santa lucia is an alternitive, but not very famous. I am swedish,
    ~Anika

  7. sami Says:

    I love the music. I think it sounds great even if I do not understand it being from America. But I love Sweeden. I wish I was there instead of a dry deseret.

  8. Lisa Says:

    This song isn’t from America. It’s from Sweden. Though the tune to the song comes from an Italian song called “Santa Lucia”.

  9. Martha Kubala Says:

    Can anyone tell me what the lyrics to the kid’s version of the English translation of Santa Lucia is? The English lyrics I have seen cannot easily be sung to the melody of the song.

  10. Sar Sar Says:

    Have anyone heard of any an English version containing words similar to these? I sang them when I was a kid but I forgot most of the words. I am hoping to find the complete song.

    “See where the stars of eve, beam gently wonder. See where from wave to wave, …

  11. Santa Lucia Day in the Waldorf Home « The Parenting Passageway Says:

    [...] There is a traditional Swedish song associated with Santa Lucia Days and you can see one English translation here: http://www.mamalisa.com/blog/santa-lucia-day-song-and-saying-why-its-a-festival-of-light/ [...]

  12. phoebus fan Says:

    I am glad to see some one who also sing this song starting with “see where the stars of eve, beam gently…. I learn it when I was 13 and forgot most of the lyric. I would be grateful if some one can give me the lyric.
    what I remember is:
    See where the stars of eve, beam gently wonder,
    see where from wave to wave, the songs are calling. Come back the night in dark, you are my bounding back, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.
    I might be wrong with the lyric as I am a Chinese living in Hong Kong, when I shing this song, I was too young to understanding.

  13. St. Lucy – Innocent of burglary on all counts. | 2pennyblog Says:

    [...] Translation from http://www.mamalisa.com/blog/santa-lucia-day-song-and-saying-why-its-a-festival-of-light/ Like this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

  14. l Says:

    actually in danish
    …..
    ……
    …..
    nu er lucia dod
    druken i
    grul
    santa lucia
    gie me en
    tie

  15. Lisa Yannucci Says:

    I asked Simon from Denmark about the meaning of the previous post. Here’s what he wrote:

    Lisa,

    This is a variation of a popular joke or parody about the tradition involving Santa Lucia day. I have not heard this variation and it is a little hard to make out with this spelling.

    Approximately it is:

    Now Lucia is dead
    Drowned in
    gruel (grul – probably a porridge)
    Santa Lucia
    Give me a
    Ten (money, a 10 kroner coin).

    There is no official version of this, but one popular version I think is:

    Santa Lucia
    Stik mig en tier
    Gør som du plejer
    Stik mig en bajer

    Nu er Lucia død
    Dyppet i øllebrød
    Hvad skal vi gøre
    Hænge hende til tørre

    This would translate to:

    Santa Lucia
    Give me a ten
    Do as you usually would
    Give me a beer.

    Now Lucia is dead
    Dipped in porridge
    What should we do?
    Hang her out to dry.

    Simon

    Thanks for your help Simon! Cheers from Mama Lisa

  16. Peter P. Says:

    In response to the latter,

    The ridiculing of the song is actually:

    Santa Lucia
    Stik mig en tier
    Gør som du plejer
    Stik mig en bajer

    Nu er Lucia død
    Skudt med en pebernød.
    Santa Lucia
    Santa Lucia.

    The difference being that Lucia was “shot with a pepper nut”. A pepper nut is a small round cookie with pepper, much like the Norwegian pepper cakes.

    Now, please enjoy the Danish variation of the Lucia Procession in choral.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqp6il_QVbA

    In Denmark, girls don’t walk foot-by-foot in the procession. They stint. Meaning, left foot forward, feet together. Right foot forward, feet together. Left foot forward, feet together. Et cetera.
    Personally, I find that more majestic, which is in “tune” to Lucia being canonized.

  17. Peter P. Says:

    By the way; for sar sar, the English lyrics:

    Nightly, go heavy hearts
    Round farm and steading
    On earth, where sun departs,
    shadows are spreading.
    Then on our darkest night,
    Comes with her shining light
    Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!
    Then on our darkest night,
    Comes with her shining light
    Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

    Night-darkling, huge and still.
    Hark, something’s stirring!
    In all our silent rooms,
    Wingbeats are whisp’ring!
    Stands on our threshold there,
    White clad, lights in her hair,
    Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!
    Stands on our threshold there,
    White clad, lights in her hair,
    Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!

    Darkness shall fly away
    Through earthly portals.
    She brings such wonderful
    words to us mortals!
    Daylight, again renewed
    will rise, all rosy-hued!
    Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!
    Daylight, again renewed,
    will rise, all rosy-hued.
    Sankta Lucia! Sankta Lucia!

  18. Witte gewaden, sterren en kaarsjes. | Says:

    [...] in. Ze zingen het traditionele “Natten går tunga fjät“. De vertaling van het lied is hier te lezen in het Engels. Lucia draagt zelf ook witte jurk maar onderscheidt zich van de andere [...]

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